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Posted August 11, 2001
Fifteen or so years ago, Bob Weir's 'Powers That Be' might have seemed somewhat far-fetched. THe President of the United States already deeply immersed in organized crime, ordering a hit on a long-time friend and advisor, but set up to look like a suicide. Indeed. Today, however, that same plot line seems eerily familiar at worst, and distinctly possible at best, and Weir's novel could just about sport the words 'Based on a true story' at the top, depending on how much credibility one assigns the evidence that indicates the 'Foster suicide' wasn't a suicide at all. Weir's novel draws several parallels to the Clinton White House that had to be intentional. His fictional U.S. president, Raymond Butler, is a constant womanizer who enjoys being serviced in the Oval office as much as his real-live inspiration did. Further, Butler's wife had an affair with the murdered aide, Vernon Leggett, much as it was rumored that Hillary Clinton had a fling with Vince Foster back in the Arkansas days. Much as Foster undoubtedly knew far too much about the skeletons that Clinton had packed tight in his closet, Leggett knew way too much about Butler's past and his association with the New Jersey mob. An upcoming apppearance in front of a Grand Jury for Leggett was too much of a liability for President Butler. Weir's story opens with a homeless person, Victor Grommack, witnessing an event that was probably not too different from what happened to Foster. Three goons arrange a deceased Vernon Leggett on a bench in Fort Marcy Park (the same park where Foster's body was found) shoot it once in the mouth, and then place the gun in the deceased's hand. When the three men who placed the body on the bench noticed the homeless man watching them, they decide they can't leave witnesses and Grommack's reluctant involvement in the case begins, as does his personal quest for redemption that forms a sub-plot within the story. From this beginning, Weir takes us on a fast paced and gripping adventure. The entire novel covers only a handful of days and nights, and rather sleepless ones at that for the other two main characters, two D.C. police detectives. With Grommack in tow, the two detectives try to unravel the complex web of conspiracy surrounding the murder and its relationship to people in various positions of power, including the president of the U.S. Their task gets increasingly complciated as the bodies begin to pile up and the 'powers that be' continually attempt to add theirs to the ever-growing stack. For their part, the Mafioso characters come across believable, at least as far as any non-mobster could tell. The leader is ruthlessly efficient and demands unwavering loyalty from his subordinates, attributes we picture mob bosses possessing. When those subordinates fail him past the point of second chances, the boss' displeasure is then indicated with a burst from an AK-47 or by the bright red dot from the laser sight creeping across their forehead. Just the sort of stuff we'd expect from mobsters although Weir's depiction deftly avoids sounding stale. Being ex-NYPD, Weir is in a unique position to let us in to how cops think and talk at the stationhouse and on the street. He translates his real-world experience into realistic dialogue that we can about picture coming from the jaundiced beat-cop or the thoughtful detective. Weir tells his tale from both sides where appropriate, giving us glimpses of the brutality that passes for business as usual among the Mafia as well as chronicling his characters' attempts to stay alive, keep Grommack alive, and bring those responsible for Leggett's death to justice. At 200 pages even, the novel is a fairly quick read, still, as once hooked the reader will have trouble sitting the novel down. Part of the allure of the novel is its real-world implications. While reading it, anyone familiar with the Foster case will be amazed at the novel's credibility. In many respects, it's as though Weir took tWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.